Former Mayor Sam Liccardo, California State Assemblymember Evan Low and Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian are pictured in a collage photo
Former San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo and State Assemblymember Evan Low are headed to a November runoff, with a recount bumping Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian from the race for Congressional District 16.

The closely-watched Silicon Valley congressional primary wrapped up in an extraordinary manner with three candidates advancing to the November runoff to replace Rep. Anna Eshoo.

After a month of counting ballots, Assemblymember Evan Low and Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian are tied for second in the Congressional District 16 race, each with 30,249 votes or 16.6%. The two have seesawed between razor thin margins for weeks, vying to join former San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, who secured the top spot with 38,489 votes or 22.13%. A tie for second place means both candidates will advance to the general election.

“Thank you to all of my incredible supporters who gave their time, money and votes to support our campaign,” Low said in a statement. “This historically close race shows that every vote really counts.”

Looking at November, Simitian said he’s looking forward to hearing from voters in the district and sharing his vision.

“We have important work to do as a nation. I am ready to do that work,” Simitian said in a statement. “First, of course, that means winning in November. That’s the next challenge.”

Last week, sources close to both campaigns said a recount was imminent for the candidate who comes in third, especially with such thin margins.

However, Low and Simitian may not have a reason to ask for a costly count with both advancing. In Santa Clara County, a manual recount is estimated to cost $320,000. For San Mateo County, which accounts for 18% of the district, it would cost roughly $85,000, according to Assistant Chief Elections Officer Jim Irizarry.

Unlike other states, California does not have an automatic recount policy. Any voter can request a recount up to five days after election certification.

Brian Parvizshahi, campaign manager of several South Bay races including Rep. Ro Khanna’s successful congressional campaign to unseat former Congressmember Mike Honda in 2016, said the question for Simitian and Low is whether a three way race is detrimental or beneficial.

“If I’m Simitian’s campaign, I would try to issue (a) recount because it’d be a lot more difficult for him to win with in a three-way race,” Parvizshahi told San José Spotlight. “If you are Low’s campaign, maybe you want both Sam and and Joe in the race so that all the young, progressive votes go to you.”

Simitian sat comfortably in second for a week after the March 5 primary election, but Low started to inch up as counties tallied the late ballots. Those voters were more likely to be progressive, people of color and younger, aligning with Low, who is a younger, gay Asian man.

Larry Gerston, political observer and San Jose State political science professor emeritus, said the candidates should combine their forces and share expenses for getting a recount, because that’s going to be less costly in the end than that third person raising and spending hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Gerston said it’s hard to say who would have the upper hand in a three-way race. Roughly 84,000 people voted for one of the other 11 candidates running in the primary election.

“We also know there’s probably at least 100,000 votes out there that may come in the general election,” Gerston told San José Spotlight. “There’s more votes awaiting some kind of assignment, if you will, then there are that went for those three. So the question is, who are these voters?”

Both Gerston and Parvizshahi said this rare deadlock changes the political strategy for all three campaigns. A general election with three candidates courting residents from San Jose to Pacifica means the race will be more expensive, bruising and influenced by outside spending.

Parvizshahi said if recounts weren’t so expensive, it could’ve also made sense for Liccardo to request one and knock out a competitor, but that is incredibly unlikely. Still, he said Liccardo is 10 steps ahead because he’s secured more endorsements and raised more than $1,000,000 in the first quarter filing of 2024.

“The name of the game is momentum,” Parvizshahi said. “The candidate who can keep that momentum (and raise the most money) by July 15, that will be the biggest indicator.”

Liccardo’s campaign did not elaborate on its political strategy.

“We welcome the opportunity to continue to talk to voters about the issues facing our communities including the high cost of living, utility rates and housing and Sam’s long record of fighting on behalf of residents,” campaign spokesperson Julie Edwards told San José Spotlight.

Contact Jana at [email protected] or follow @Jana_Kadah on X, formerly known as Twitter.

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